Timey Wimey

One Hard-To-Watch Doctor Who Spinoff Just Became Canon

Let's talk about the Remembered TARDIS.

Scottish actor Sylvester McCoy on the set of 'Time And The Rani', an episode in the BBC science fict...
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Doctor Who

In the Doctor Who Season 1 (2024) finale “Empire of Death,” the 15th Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) travel the universe in the TARDIS, along with one-time-companion of the 6th and 7th Doctors, Melanie Bush (Bonnie Langford). For longtime fans, having people travel through all of time and space with the Doctor in the TARDIS shouldn’t sound too weird. And yet, in “Empire of Death” the exact version of the TARDIS that Mel, Ruby, and the Doctor are rocking will seem super unfamiliar to nearly all fans of the show in the U.S.

But, strangely, this version of the TARDIS was introduced into the Whoniverse earlier this year. And now, thanks to its appearance in “Empire of Death,” this splinter-version of the immortal time machine now appears to be canon.

Spoilers ahead for Doctor Who’s “Empire of Death.”

What is the Remembered TARDIS?

The Seventh Doctor and Ace in the Remembered TARDIS.


After Sutekh’s “Gift of Death” starts turning everyone to sand, the Doctor and Mel return to the Time Window in UNIT and find that a second version of the TARDIS is partially materializing. The Doctor says “It’s a TARDIS remembered... time is a memory and memory is a time machine.”

While Ruby’s memories of the TARDIS seem to help it fully materialize, this mash-up TARDIS contains elements from every single era of Doctor Who, seemingly thrown together in a cramped closet version of the interior. There are pieces of the 1st Doctor’s control panel, part of the 3rd Doctor’s console on the ceiling, and drawers with all sorts of Easter eggs, including the 11th and 13th Doctor’s sonics. In a sense, this TARDIS looks like a closet filled with retro Easter eggs, complete with small TV screens that contain memories from the past. Several of these memories are connected to the larger plot of Ruby Sunday’s timeline, but, just before escaping Sutekh (who is in control of the “real” TARDIS, one of the TV screens held by the Doctor plays his own memories from the 4th Doctor serial “Pyramids of Mars.” The Doctor explains that this is because “the Time Window has my memories, too.”

So, the creation of the Remembered TARDIS (or Memory TARDIS) seems to occur here, at this moment, in UNIT HQ because of the Time Window and the Sutekh crisis in 2024. But, the Memory TARDIS — with this exact interior — already appeared in the Whoniverse in 2023. And yet, “Empire of Death” seems to be the moment where this wibbly-wobbly alternate version is now officially canon.

Tales of the TARDIS becomes canon

The Doctor (Peter Davison) and Tegan (Janet Fielding) in the first episode of Tales of the TARDIS (2023).


Starting on November 1, 2024, in the UK on the BBC iPlayer, a special miniseries called Tales of the TARDIS began airing, just before the three David Tennant/Catherine Tate specials dropped for the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who. Each segment features characters from classic eras of Who, finding themselves in the Memory TARDIS, sharing stories of episodes from the show’s history. The first episode, a retrospective of “Earthshock,” found the 5th Doctor (Peter Davison) meeting with Tegan (Janet Fielding), the latter describing their setting as a “gimcrack TARDIS.” In the sixth episode, the 7th Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) implies that the Remembered TARDIS contains Doctors from alternate dimensions, saying: “Timestreams are funny things. In some, I regenerate, in others, I don’t.”

Because Tales of the TARDIS is only available to watch in the U.K., there’s a huge portion of Who fans in the U.S. and elsewhere who haven’t even seen it, meaning the interior of the Memory TARDIS in “Empire of Death” will appear brand-new. Prior to this episode, because the Memory TARDIS appeared in a series that is really just sweet retrospective segments, worrying about its canonicity might have seemed silly.

But when Ruby, the Doctor, and Mel make the Memory TARDIS manifest in the Time Window and then use that TARDIS to scour the universe in search of survivors, the legitimacy of the Memory TARDIS has been solidified. This is no longer just a cutesy framing device for retrospectives of old episodes. “Empire of Death” is now, retroactively, the origin of Tales of the TARDIS, and (sort of) explains how all of the old Doctors were able to manifest in the Memory TARDIS. Without Tales of the TARDIS, the 15th Doctor, Ruby, and Mel would not have had a backup time machine to save the universe. Essentially, for its big 2024 season finale, Doctor Who set-up a huge deus ex machina back in 2023, hidden in a retrospective spinoff.

How to watch Tales of the TARDIS

Peter Davison as the 5th Doctor in Tales of the TARDIS. (2023)


If you’re in the U.K., watching Tales of the TARDIS is fairly easy if you have the BBC iPlayer. If you’re in the U.S. and you want to watch Tales of the TARDIS legally, as of this writing, it’s nearly impossible. While some bootleg versions are floating around, Tales of the TARDIS is not streaming on Disney+ with the new season of Who, nor is it on Max (where the 2005-2022 Seasons 1-13 are streaming.) And, Tales of the TARDIS is also not on Britbox, which is still the best place to stream classic Who (1963-1989) in the U.S. So, for now, if you’re watching Doctor Who on Disney+, the Remembered TARDIS appears for the first time in “Empire of Death,” even though the echoes of it have been established in brief Who stories you’ve never even seen.

As with all things Doctor Who, filling in the gaps of the legend is just as much a part of this universe, as what we actually see on screen.

Doctor Who streams on Disney+.

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